Safety Leadership Learning

Safety Leadership Learning

By George Robotham from


imageA few years ago I attended a presentation on leadership by General Norman Schwarzkopf. This got me really fired up about leadership and led me to research the topic thoroughly. I am convinced leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most things in life, it is certainly vital for successful safety. I have been working with companies to improve their general and safety leadership. I try to incorporate leadership principles in my safety work.


Having survived a number of years in industry I am acutely aware that leadership of an organisation can make or break the organisation. The importance of leadership is vastly underrated in Australian industry.

In my experience many supervisors and managers know little about general leadership. I would go as far as to say leadership is not understood by many in management. People are often promoted to supervisor / manager positions because of their technical skills and with little knowledge of and preparation for leadership.

General Colin Powell is reported as having said leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.

Honest and ethical behaviour is the centre piece of leadership, we constantly hear about otherwise highly competent leaders who fail because of ethical issues. When highly ethical leaders do not take up the leadership challenge less ethical people will fill the void. This appears to happen commonly in politics, business and the sporting world in Australia.

Recommended reading on Leadership

Briune P., A bastard of a place, about Australian soldiers at Kokoda, if you want to learn about leadership in times of adversity this is the place to look

Schwartz kopf N. It does not take a hero

Carter, L., Ulrich, D., Goldsmith, M., 2005, Best Practices in Leadership Development and Organization Change, John Wiley and Sons ,San Francisco

Johnson, D., 1990, Reaching Out, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey

Kouzes, J., 2005, The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching, John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey

Becoming a Transformational Leader-Perry K.

Understanding teams-Welbourn M.

Groups-Theory and Experience-Gersherfeld N.

Leadership-An Australian Focus-Dubrin J. and Dalglish C.

Leadership-Burns J.

Leadership Revelations-An Australian Perspective-Henry A.

Leadership-A Communications Perspective-Hackman M. and Johnson C.

Leadership Lessons from West Point-Crandall D.

A Leaders Legacy-Kouzes and Posner

Organisation Culture and Leadership-Schein E.

Leadership-Giuliani R.

Developing the Leaders Within You-Maxwell J.

Patton On Leadership-Axelrod A.

In Extremis Leadership-Kolditz T.

The Leadership Challenge-Kouzes and Posner

Portrait of a Leader-Peter Cosgrove

All the above are excellent, if you only have a small amount of time to read up on leadership I would recommend Kouzes and Posner

C.D. ‘s from the Australian Institute of Management

Understanding Integrated Leadership-Hede A.

Developing the Art of Leadership-Perry K

.Leading With Integrity-Thorsborne M.

Other references

Readers are particularly directed to the paper “ Leadership Principles for The Safety Professional” presented by Eddie Greer at the A.S.S.E. Professional Development Conference, June 13, 2001, Anaheim, California.

During peer-review of this paper the author was made aware of the A.S.S.E. paper “Dimensions of supervisor effectiveness” by Jim Spigener,25/6/04.This paper is considered particularly useful on the topic of safety leadership, there are some limitation in use associated with this paper and potential readers are directed to

George can be contacted on, he welcomes debate on the above (it would be indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)

George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University), Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland), Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia,,,07-38021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal damage

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.